Margaret de Heinrich’s story is like something from a movie, a serendipitous unfolding of chance happenings that led her to become one of the skincare industry’s most pioneering, knowledgable, and passionate moguls. Love is the key to the story – love for adventure, which brought her to Budapest as a young diplomat, love for the city and love for her husband, which led the duo to found the now global award-winning skincare brand Omorovicza in 2006.
Her story begins when she was a young American diplomat, posted to Budapest in her late 20s as chief of staff for the US ambassador to Hungary. She found herself falling in love with the historic capital, and a chance meeting with her now husband, Stephen Omorovicza, led her to discover the magic of its ancient thermal spas. ‘In the early days of our relationship, Stephen and I spent many hours visiting the sights of Budapest. As a Hungarian, he was incredibly proud of the city and its heritage,’ says Margaret. Known as the “City of Baths,” Budapest sits on a geological fault line, where 120 hot springs feed into its thermal baths. An intense level of minerals allows for greater absorption into the skin, and healing properties. While doctors in the US, and around the world would prescribe medication, Hungarian doctors would often subscribe time in the country’s thermal baths, a ritual Margaret soon discovered, and in turn, healed her skincare problems.
‘One of our trips (and my first experience bathing in Budapest’s magical waters) was the Rácz Spa, a renowned thermal bath built on an ancient spring by Stephen’s ancestors in the 1800s,’ explains Margaret. The Rácz Spa legend goes that the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius noticed his wounded soldiers’ skin would recover quickly when entering their bubbling springs. ‘I became fascinated by the instant effect these mineral-rich waters had on my (previously) troubled skin. Some months later, I met with a Hungarian laboratory of Dermatology (who discovered Vitamin C.) During our meeting, I learnt why Hungary’s thermal waters are so unique and how we could harness them in skincare. Knowing the water’s curative powers, throughout history and in Margaret herself, the duo went on to try to replicate and bottle these healing powers in a skincare brand, and Omorovicza was born.
Today, the brand is stocked in world-leading spas and stores, with Margaret spending her time between the UK, US and Budapest, a city she still holds dear to her heart. Keep reading to discover Margaret’s Budapest, her travel beauty essentials and how the city is a leading health and wellness tourism destination.
Budapest according to Margaret de Heinrich
How would you describe Budapest to someone who has never been?
Glamorous, exotic and unexpected. A city full of surprises – culturally, historically – academically.
How did you fall in love with the city? What were your first impressions, vs your impressions after living there and settling down there?
I moved from New York to Budapest at 27 years old, to become a diplomat. As I drove along the Danube, I felt as though I had crossed the moon, it was so, unlike any place I had ever been… After settling there, starting a business and a family and now having Budapest be at the centre of our life – I can only say that it is a magical city that has gotten under my skin. The culture, people, cityscape – everything is so unique and feels like home.
Talk us through your favourite places in Budapest
Café Kor for the best goulash in town. Cocktails at Four Seasons Gresham Palace. Fisherman’s Bastion for skyline views of the city. Café Pierrot for a romantic supper in the candlelit garden. A trip to one of Budapest’s thermal baths. And of course, no trip to Budapest would be complete without a visit to Omorovicza’s Institute for a facial.
A hidden, in-the-know, gem in Budapest?
Stephen and I love Brody House, a social and creative hub in the centre of the city. Whenever we’re in Budapest, we’ll always find time to drop by.
Tell us about the spa culture in Budapest. Why is it unique to the city?
In Hungary, the Earth’s crust is thinner, so the thermal water gathers more beneficial and restorative minerals (such as calcium, zinc, copper and magnesium) as it travels to the surface.
‘Taking the waters’ has provided curative relief to bathers for thousands of years; from the Romans to the Ottoman Empire, and today. The healing powers of the thermal waters were discovered in 100 AD, when Romans settled at Aquincum (which now forms part of Budapest) and built the city’s first thermal bath. Marcus Aurelius reportedly noticed that his soldiers’ wounds healed quicker after bathing in these waters. Later during the Middle Ages, the Knights Templar came and build hospices on the site of the thermal springs to treat leprosy. During the Ottoman occupation, hammams popped up all over the country and people began to visit the baths to experience the magical healing properties themselves.
In Budapest alone, over 100 spas have been erected in homage to this unique bathing culture. Every thermal bath is a SPA, from the Latin Sanitas Per Aquam, meaning ‘health through water’. In fact, 100 years ago, Budapest was called the International Spa City.
Bathing in these mineral-rich thermal waters provides curative relief for many ailments including circulatory, respiratory or joint problems. When it comes to the skin, the mineral deposits help to support general elasticity, barrier function and repair. Today, Budapest’s curative culture is an integral part of everyday life. The Hungarian government subsidises healthcare, and doctors will provide prescriptions for people to go to the baths for treatment.
What thermal spas would you recommend visiting in Budapest?
There’s plenty to choose from! In my opinion, the most magnificent (which is not currently open to the public) is the Rácz. Stephen’s family enlisted the help of a renowned architect – Miklós Ybl – to renovate the thermal bath in the late 1800s. Rudas, around the corner, is a great example of a traditional Turkish hammam, whereas Gellert is utterly beautiful. I love the gorgeous Zsolnay tiles along the floors and walls.
How does Omorovicza channel the magic of Budapest’s thermal spas? Talk us through the process.
We developed – Healing Concentrate™ – a patented ingredient to channel the elemental power of the earth from Hungary. Through a lengthy bio-fermentation process, the minerals are transformed into bio-available compounds, which can be easily absorbed into skin. This unique ingredient is clinically proven to boost elasticity, reinforce the skin’s barrier function and alleviate the effects of cellular inflammation. You can find the Healing Concentrate™ in every one of our products.
What Omorovicza products would you say capture the power of the spas the most?
If I really had to choose just one, it would be The Cure. This intensive skin programme contains a supercharged dose of the Healing Concentrate™ to renew and reset tired skin.
What would you say is Omorovicza’s hero product?
That’s a tough one! I love so many products within the collection, but if I had to choose one, it would have to be our Gold Night Drops.
Talk us through your travel beauty regime
Travelling can wreak havoc on my skin in terms of dryness and breakouts. I never travel without some products from Omorovicza’s Moor Mud Collection. This lineup of products is powered by Hungarian Mood Mud, which we source from the largest thermal lake in Europe, Lake Hévíz. The black mud is brimming with beneficial minerals including magnesium and calcium carbonates, as well as humic and fulvic acids, which help to revitalise, soothe, detoxify and purify the skin. My current go-to is the Thermal Cleansing Balm. The Queen of Hungary Mist is a fantastic pick-me-up and extremely soothing for jetlagged skin. I always pack an intensive hydrating mask or cream to help repair damaged skin, especially if I’m travelling on a plane! The Gold Rescue Cream is a current favourite of mine – it revitalises the skin and provides intense nourishment.
What items are always in your suitcase
Perfume, a good book and some artwork and photos from our four children.
Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
I would love to travel to Iran, Jordan, India and Mexico.
Omorovicza is available in the GCC at apothecabeauty.com